Finding creative ways to add flaxseeds to your meals can be a challenge. One popular technique is to incorporate ground flaxseeds into your muffin, cookie, or bread recipes. But what about the impact of oven temperatures on omega-3 fatty acids in the flax? According to several recent studies, the answer to this question is—”No problem!” We’ve seen two recent studies in which flaxseeds were ground and added to baked goods, using oven temperatures of at least 300F (150C).

The shortest baking time was 15 minutes and the longest was 3 hours. In all cases, the omega-3 content of the flaxseed (primarily alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) remained stable and intact. That’s great news for anyone wanting to include flaxseed not only to muffins and cookies or breads, but also to other oven-baked items like pizza crusts, dinner rolls, or casseroles.

Most plant foods contain at least small amounts of phytonutrients called lignans. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits, fiber-like benefits, and also act as phytoestrogens. Among all commonly eaten foods, researchers now rank flaxseeds as the #1 source of lignans in human diets.
Flaxseeds contain about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up food (sesame seeds). They contain about 338 times as many lignans as sunflower seeds, 475 times as many as cashew nuts, and 3,200 times as many lignans as peanuts.

When we think about antioxidant-rich foods, the first foods that come to mind are typically vegetables and fruits. Of course, foods in both of these food groups can be outstanding sources of antioxidants! Yet according to recent research, flaxseeds also belong high up on our list of antioxidant-rich foods. When flaxseeds are compared with other commonly eaten foods in terms of their total polyphenol content (polyphenols are one very important group of antioxidants), flaxseeds rank 9th among 100 commonly eaten foods. Flaxseeds turn out to be significantly higher in polyphenol antioxidants than fruits like blueberries or vegetables like olives. The antioxidant benefits of flaxseeds have long been associated with prevention of cardiovascular diseases and have recently also been tied to decreased insulin resistance.

Given the strong track record of flaxseeds as foods providing cardiovascular benefits, it’s not surprising to see recent research studies showing benefits of flaxseeds for improvement of metabolic syndrome (MetS). One recent study showed a 20% decrease in the prevalence of MetS after 12 weeks on a diet plan that included 30 grams (1 ounce) of ground flaxseed per day in the form of flaxseed-enriched baked bread. Interestingly, in addition to improving blood pressure and lowering fasting glucose level, flaxseed intake also helped decrease central obesity (as measured by waist circumference). The addition of flaxseed provided all of these health benefits without causing weight gain. That’s quite an accomplishment for a food that is over 70% fat in terms of total calories and contains about 10 times as many calories per cup as a fruit like blueberries.

The Benefits of Flaxseed

Is flaxseed the new wonder food? Preliminary studies show that it may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.

Some call it one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s some evidence it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. That’s quite a tall order for a tiny seed that’s been around for centuries.

Flaxseed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it. Now, thirteen centuries later, some experts say we have preliminary research to back up what Charlemagne suspected.

Flaxseed is found in all kinds of today’s foods from crackers to frozen waffles to oatmeal. The Flax Council estimates close to 300 new flax-based products were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone. Not only has consumer demand for flaxseed grown, agricultural use has also increased. Flaxseed is what’s used to feed all those chickens that are laying eggs with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
  • Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.